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Eating 80 percent fat? Legacy and College of Natural Medicine will study the diet on Parkinson's patients

Portland Business Journal

August 28, 2014

Legacy Health and the National College of Natural Medicine are teaming up to study whether an extremely high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet has any benefit for Parkinson’s patients.

Legacy and NCNM are recruiting 12 participants with Parkinson’s with a goal of starting the 12-week trial in early January.

The exact proportions of the "ketogenic" diet are 80 percent fat, 15 percent protein and 5 percent carbs. The typical American’s diet is 30 to 35 percent fat, so this trial is calls for a big leap.

“It’s such a complicated diet for people to follow,” said Angela Senders, assistant director of research at NCNM and a licensed naturopathic physician. The college is handling the dietary piece of the trial, while Legacy will monitor the results.

The ketogenic diet has been used successfully to treat epilepsy in children since the 1920s. Dr. Alar Mirka, Legacy’s director of clinical research at Legacy Health, became interested in doing the trial after a colleague mentioned a small study of the effects of the diet on Parkinson’s patients.

The diet forces the body to burn fats, rather than carbs, that are turned into ketones and replace glucose as the brain’s energy source. The diet raises levels of the molecule adenosine, of which the nerve cells of Parkinson’s patients have a deficiency. The previous study was smaller, shorter and not as rigorous as the one Legacy plans, Mirka said.

Senders said there are many ways for participants to get needed fats without eating a steady diet of bacon or red meat. A breakfast could consist of a hard-boiled egg, half an avocado, sauteed green beans in olive oil. Lunch could be a big green salad, sauteed asparagus, smoked salmon, chicken crumbled feta and a fatty salad dressing. Cream cheese and nuts make for good snacks on the diet.

“You can have anything, as long as you don’t mess up those percentages,” Senders said.

Participation in the study also requires a lot of calculating, weighing and measuring. Study participants will be paired with Masters students in the college’s naturopathic program, who will meet weekly.

To read the story online, click here.